Old Kentucky River railroad bridge will become bungee-jumping platform

gkocher1@herald-leader.comFebruary 24, 2013 

A car rounded a curve on the U.S. 62 bridge next to Young's High Bridge over the Kentucky River between Anderson and Woodford counties. Young's High Bridge, an old railroad trestle, soon will become a platform for bungee jumping, according to the company Vertigo Bungee.

GREG KOCHER | STAFF — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

TYRONE — A former railroad bridge that spans the Kentucky River from Anderson to Woodford counties will become a platform from which bungee jumpers will dive.

Young's High Bridge — not to be confused with High Bridge that spans the river between Mercer and Jessamine counties — was purchased for $105,000 by Young's Bridge Partners LLC, according to a deed filed in Anderson County.

Mitchell Morris of Springfield is listed as the organizer and member of Young's Bridge Partners. Contacted Sunday, Morris said he was general manager of Vertigo Bungee, a 23-year-old company that does base-jumping events across the country and around the world. He said the Tyrone bridge would be a marquee spot for the sport.

"It's going to be the highest platform bridge jump in North America," Morris said. "Anything over 200 feet is premium, and that one is 240 feet from the water."

Morris, a Lexington native, said Vertigo Bungee would operate the bridge as a private club not be open to the public. He said it would be the "Augusta National" of base-jumping sites, referring to Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of The Masters golf championship.

"We're going to work with it as a world-class resource, because it is," Morris said. "It is a rare, rare piece of property. It's a 124-year-old bridge that's 240 feet above the water, that nobody cares to use except for bungee jumping. Find me a duplicate like that."

The website for Vertigo Bungee shows a photo of the bridge and the declaration "We own it!"

The company hopes to have the first jumps off the bridge in May, Morris said. Before then, a deck and handrail need to be installed on the span, he said.

"The railroad rails we're taking up, and so what's left are ties," he said. "And so, you have to build a deck on top of the ties so you have a good sidewalk."

Morris said the bridge would be used for jumps perhaps only 10 weeks a year. "We're going to bring in people with different themes and sponsors, and do a number of events, raise money and create exposure," he said.

Vertigo Bungee has more than 20 years of film footage documenting bungee jumps, and Morris hopes to film jumps from the Tyrone bridge to include in a 2015 documentary about the sport.

The company also hopes to pitch a reality series called Join Us for Launch that would highlight the sport, Morris said.

Young's High Bridge stands next to the U.S. 62 bridge for vehicular traffic. The bridge is named for Bennett Henderson Young, a Nicholasville native and Confederate soldier who became president of Louisville Southern Railway.

Congress approved construction of the span in 1888. Work began early the next year, and the first train crossed it in August 1889.

"The completion of the bridge was a gala event for Anderson and Woodford counties," a newspaper reported at the time, "and thousands had come by boat and carriages to witness the crossing of the first train."

The last passenger train crossed the bridge in 1937, and most freight traffic was gone by the 1970s. The last diesel engine crossed the bridge in the 1980s.

Ten years ago, a nonprofit charitable organization called Tyrone Bridge and Rail Co. tried to raise money to preserve the bridge. But that group dissolved in 2011, according to the website for the Kentucky secretary of state.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. donated the bridge to Young's High Bridge Historical Society LLC in July 2008, according to a deed filed in Anderson County.

Then, in October, the historical society sold the bridge to Young's Bridge Partners. But it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that Morris announced plans for the bridge in The Anderson News, Lawrenceburg's weekly newspaper.

Morris, 49, said he had made "a couple hundred jumps over 20 years."

"That breathless, weightless feeling when you accelerate and give yourself over to gravity from a standstill" is what makes the sport addictive, he said. "Skydiving and things like that — you've got noise and wind and airplanes. Whereas this is much more intimate and breathtaking."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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